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Symphony Ys -21st Century- :: Review by Chris

Symphony Ys -21st Century- Album Title: Symphony Ys -21st Century-
Record Label: Nihon Falcom
Catalog No.: NF02033
Release Date: June 28, 2001
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Symphony Ys -21st Century- is an attempt to present the music of Ys II in the format of a real symphony. Well, as real as a symphony can sound using synthesized instruments. Much like Symphony Ys '95, the album is partly intended as a retelling of the game's story and themes, though Falcom's own sound team was this time responsible for the arrangements. Unlike its predecessor, this album was never commercially available, but instead bundled with Ys I & II Complete. Perhaps this was for the best...


The First Movement is impressive for its ambition, but little else. The first three minutes of the suite attempt to present "To Make the End of Battle" as a lavish orchestration, but extraordinarily fail. The original melody was intended purely as a light rock theme and, in a symphonic format, only sounds contrived and cheesy. The backing orchestration is certainly thick and texturous, yet offers little substance otherwise and is almost a sporadic collection of phrases. Unfortunately, interpretation of "Feena" is no better, sounding melodramatic right from the timpani rolls of the introduction all the way to the gushing strings of the climax. The rest of the movement continues in much the same approach for 11 minutes, labouring overdone melodies with inappropriate and pretentious orchestrations, much to the disillusion of listeners.

The different movements of the album contrast in their approaches. The Second Movement is a waltz interpretation centred on "Ice Ridge of Noltia", the Third Movement is a short romantic suite of three of Ys II's most poignant themes, and the Fourth Movement is an action-packed climax similar to the finales of major symphonies. Of these, only the second is particularly tolerable. "Noble District of Toal" provides a serene introduction to the movement and, along with "Rest in Peace" from the First Movement, it is one of the few subtle contributions to the album. The subsequent build-up and transition to triple metre is convincingly executed, while much of the rest of the suite is rich with fantasy auras and haunting moments. It's still a rather amateurish orchestration, but at least it's an evocative one.

The love suite is predictably the most superficial arrangement on the album. Instead of offering stirring romantic chords or breathtaking instrumental solos, the arranger sticks to the orchestration methods witnessed on most Hollywood movies. The result is a collection of sappy suspended strings and random harp arpeggios devoid of passion. The finale is impressive for the way it evolves from its gentle opening into an abrasive action theme and there are brief moments of splendour during the transition. The interpretation of "Termination" again sounds more Hollywood than Classical — with bombastic brass and chorus — but at least it is impacting. Though hackneyed, certainly the main problem with this entire movement is the messy implementation and low quality samples.


Symphony Ys -21st Century- is a pitiful example of a sound team trying to pull off more than they can chew. I'm pleased with their ambition when creating this album and how they developed a broad understanding of orchestration. However, there are so many technical problems with the orchestration and implementation that the results still sound like the work of an undergraduate student. What's more, the orchestrations are generally so derivative of classical and film composers that they offer no real substance of their own, and some approaches like "To Make the End of Battle" aren't even compatible with the originals. Stick to Symphony Ys and Symphony Ys '95 instead.

Overall Score: 4/10